A private, religious high school in Brick Township will remain shut down since its leaders have still failed to obtain a zoning permit allowing its use, however that relief – including a D-3 conditional use variance – will be the subject of a township zoning board hearing Dec. 20.
Brick Township and representatives from Congregation Kehilos Yisroel, an Orthodox Jewish organization controlled by developer David Gluck, were before Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson for the third time Thursday, where the hearing date was set. The school, in the mean time, remains closed and the Hendrickson Avenue building is partially off-limits due to safety concerns.
Wellerson pushed for progress in the case, ordering both the township and CKY’s attorney, Adam Pfeffer, hold any required meetings early to avoid a delay of the hearing. He ruled the full board – seven members – must be present, as “D” variances require a supermajority of five board members voting in favor to receive approval. Wellerson said he “expects” the hearing to be concluded Dec. 20 and the result – regardless of whether the application is approved or denied – memorialized at the board’s Jan. 5, 2022 meeting. While hearings are sometimes concluded in one night, those which center on use variances – including more minor conditional use variances, as in the CKY case – are often timely matters that require multiple board appearances. It is expected that neighbors will hire an attorney to object to the application, meaning counsel must be afforded time to cross-examine CKY’s witnesses and call their own. Individual residents who are not represented by an attorney will also have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, then offer comments in a separate period of public participation.
The hearing will undoubtedly be highly technical in nature. A school is a conditional use in the zone in which CKY’s building is located. That means schools may be allowed only under certain conditions laid out in township ordinances. If one or more of the conditions is not met, then a conditional use variance is required.
Wellerson scheduled status conferences for Nov. 19, to ensure progress was being made on the application, as well as Dec. 21 to meet with both parties following the previous night’s meeting.
The venue for the hearing was not decided-upon in court. Though such hearing are normally conducted in the council chambers at the township municipal complex, applications that draw significant public interest are sometimes moved to a larger location. Regardless, the judge ordered the hearing to be held Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. with the CKY matter being the only item on the agenda at the special meeting. The hearing will concern only the school itself, which was being operated out of the former Temple Beth Or synagogue, which had existed as a place of worship for a mainstream Conservative Jewish congregation since 1976. When CKY purchased the building, a zoning permit allowed for its continued use as a house of worship, but within months, the building began operating as a school, with students present on the grounds and a steady stream of buses entering and exiting the property. The hearing will not concern the legally separate – but ultimately related – matter of at least one home on the same street, Hendrickson Avenue, being used as an alleged “dormitory” for reportedly 20 occupants. That case is being heard in municipal court.
Notice of the meeting and its location is required to be published in a newspaper and residents within 200-feet of the property must be notified by law of the Board of Adjustment hearing.